Interview with Dagney
Tell us a little about yourself and your family.
I was born and raised in Southern California, with a brief stint with parents as need-greaters in Central America. My parents accepted a study in the D2D work, I believe my father was interested in the revolutionary aspect of the religion, and my mom said she wanted to learn the Bible. They were baptized in 1937 I think, and attended the one and only Los Angeles KH at the time. I have an older brother and sister, six nieces and nephew, six great nephews, and now some new family discovered through ancestry.com. They have no connection to JW.
.Were you a born in or a convert?
Born in. I used to thank Jah that I was a born in because I never would have been a convert, lol.
Are your parents / family JWs?
Parents are passed, they were JWs, my sister is out and her children except for one nephew who is a MS, my brother is a heavily involved COBE, his wife and kids and grandkids are all JWs.
How many generations have been JWs?
Eeek, 4 generations. BUT…out of 17 immediate living family members, only 7 are JWs.
Did you hold any position in the WTS? (MS, Elder etc...)
Did you *really* believe in the bible, in spirits (angels, demons)?
That ebbed and flowed. The Garden of Eden story and the Flood made no sense to me from waaay back. I guess I did believe in the Bible and spirits. BUT I had a really hard time with allowing the pain and suffering to continue, as the numbers that were to be destroyed grew. It really inhibited my ability to pray to a god that would do that.
Did you get baptised? When and why?
Yes. My mother was afraid I was going to be destroyed, so she made me study with another sister (outside family study) the Truth book when I was 12. My father wanted me to be baptized earlier, but my family opposed it. My brother and sister were among those baptized at 5/6 years. And it was awful for them, the forced preaching. Terrible. Anyway, the sister who studied with me was a no nonsense instructor, and now that I think about it she was a professional music teacher and owned a music store. (Actually, Jaracz was our CO or DO, and the wife (Melitta??) came to my studies, and Ted gave my baptism talk.) After the 6 month study was over, I was not ready to be baptized and very scared. My mother said to me, is there another religion you want to be, and of course my answer was “no.” So she said that was all I was really doing by being baptized, so I acquiesced. At the same time, I was in a hall with a lot of young people, so we studied the questions together, then had dance parties afterward. I was much younger than the others, but I got to be with them.
.What was the initial trigger that made you start questioning things?.
In the late 70’s I was involved with a nonJW who agreed to study on my account. Even though I was high on my soap box preaching my heart out about paradise (sigh), he was really a smart guy, (non practicing Jewish UCLA grad), and we spent hours and hours discussing the religion, good/evil, life/death…everything. One day driving to his house and feeling a smack on my forehead, as clear as anything the thought came into my brain, “this is all BS.” Followed by feeling a little lost, then very quickly came, “but we have the brotherhood. Nobody has this brotherhood.” Sigh. I was with a bunch of JW’s who were very forward thinking, openly discussing the faults of the religion. Then 1995 generation change came and I KNEW it was all BS. I started bringing a New English Bible to the meetings, reading all verses in context, becoming very disappointed in that, the misapplication of scripture.
Oh I just remembered we had the special blood meeting regarding “fractions,” and my friend and I looked at each other and said, BS. I did go online at that time and found the AWJRB site. That along with a revised question from readers let me know something was going on at HQ, I left about 2-3 months later in June of 2001.
Where did you find information? Internet sites? Books?
I left suddenly and it was not planned. That is when I ordered the “dreaded” Franz books as I called them, and really I told people I was going to read them. I also bought Jonsson’s “Gentile Times” book, and Penton’s “Apocalypse Delayed.” They all basically confirmed what I already knew after decades as a JW. I did stumble on the old H20 website, which was fascinating. I landed on a Christian exJW site called Pathways where I met several online people I am still friends with, Bumblebee, anomaly. That was a really safe place to land to get questions out and have good discussion. Eventually, anomaly convinced me to join JWD. Those discussions going on at the time were mesmerizing. Hilary Step, AlanF, Farkle, Leo…amazing discussions.
How difficult or painful was the process of leaving?
All in all relatively easy. I had a moment of clarity during a Sunday meeting. I was listening to the comments during the WTS, and suddenly I felt I no longer belonged there. I didn’t think like these people, I didn’t want to think like these people, I didn’t want to teach what they were spouting. My life literally flashed before my eyes, I knew everything and everybody I was going lose. But I was tired of checking my brain at the door and constantly being told what a bad person I was. I never went back, except for funerals, one or two talks by friends, and a few memorials until my mom passed. For some reason it wasn’t difficult, it seemed 100% the right thing to do. I did have a dear friend who had his own struggles, who was the only one I told. We feverishly emailed back and forth for several months getting all our frustrations out in a safe place…I think it saved me.
Was it a big dramatic exit or a careful quiet fade?
Ripped the bandaid. Just left. Kept to myself, avoided the elder’s calls, told my friends I was on sabbatical. I did have an elderly mother that also took a turn for the worse, so nobody said anything. People knew me and how methodical I was and they didn't want to have the conversation with me. I have thought recently, that the brothers left me alone also because my brother is a well known elder in the area. I think they would be glad to leave me to him to deal.
Did you convince anyone else to leave with you?
I believe I have influenced a few people, planted seeds along the way. Told some to do their own research which eventually led to JWD and other sites.
How were your family relations affected by your decision?
I swore I would fight to avoid DFing to cause my mother any undue stress. I knew when she found out it would worry her sick, and for that I absolutely HATE this organization. I would take legal action or whatever, I would not let them bully me. She was always trying to save me until her last breath, but I would just tell her “don’t worry. Everything will be just fine.” It’s been up and down with my brother. My brother was corn-fused. lol. He didn't know what to do with me. He still doesn't. No contact for years, and he acted very badly around my mother’s death. The worse he acted the more serene I became. We did have a few good heart to hearts over the years. His wife treats me no different, his kids don’t either. When I explained the behavior to the new family, just two weeks ago, she hugged me and said “it’s hurtful.” So there it is.
Were you or are you still being shunned by those who didn't leave?
Mostly yes, unless I go to a funeral or such. Then it’s butterflies and daisies, hugs and kisses. Eeesh.
How long have you now been out?
Almost 17 years this summer.
Was there anything you looked forward to doing when you left?
I left unexpectedly, so no. I didn't know what I was doing or where I was going. If I had thought about it like I normally do about things, I probably would have stayed in more years due to indecisiveness.
What are you most proud of achieving since you left?
i guess my successful departure.
Is there anything you miss about life in the congregation?
Just the social benefits. I will say traveling while in was so much fun, meeting up with other JW’s around the world. It was vastly different traveling after I left. Still fun, but missed that connection.
Red pill or blue pill? Do you regret waking up to reality at all?
Not. At. All.
Did you become an atheist or transfer your faith elsewhere?
I listened to Christian broadcasts when I left, and found them very similar to JW talks. I thought I would try some Christian church, but never bothered. I went with some exJW’s (waves to Aude) to a Unitarian Xmas Eve service, which I liked. I also have been to a Catholic Xmas Eve service I liked. I decided I like pretty music and tradition as a visitor. I don’t believe the Bible as anything other than an old book. I reasoned if God really wanted to save men he wouldn’t leave such convoluted instructions. I am probably an atheist, just don’t think about it. But god has no place in my life.
How do you now feel about religion in general?
It gives its followers what they need, and they create the god they need. It turns out, I don’t need it.
Do you feel any guilt celebrating xmas or birthdays or doing any other JW "no-no"s?
No, just feel a bit awkward still, but I’m all in. I really like shiny things.
Have you attended any face-to-face meetups of ex-JWs?
Yes. My first meet up was with a former mod Sassy on this board. I was always grateful for that and have tried to offer the same to others. I am still really good friends with a poster who hosted the LA meetup for years; I went to 2-3 of her meetings and met some phenom people. Went to the crazy 2006 or 2007 Toronto giant meetup. That was wild. Went to the first Tahoe apostafest and 4-5 more after that. I met many exJW friends from around the world through here and on Facebook. There are many more I’d still like to meet..
Describe your circle of friends - mostly other ex-JWs or regular people?
Do you tell people about your JW past?
I look for opportunities to anti JW witness. I want them to know how they treat me and encourage them to ask them if they come to their doors about it.
Do you feel animosity or pity toward current JWs?
Not really. If they are true believers, it is where they should be. They probably need it
How do you respond to witnesses when they call at your door?
Hasn’t happened yet. But I think I would tell them how long I was in and think of one comment to leave with them.
Storm the barricades or tend to the wounded? (do you favor activism or support)
Tend to the wounded. The more aggressive the activism is it seems it is more for the needs of activist than the audience, IMHO. And it’s their right to do so. I can't say that through that experience, that some message won't hit home somewhere down the road of the believer.
What do you think is the most effective approach to reaching people still in?
The internet and youtube. Thank you again Simon. I have a friend that is newly out, and he is hooked on youtube. He knows more of what is going on out there than I do, lol.
Do you think the WTS can or should be destroyed, will continue on as-is or grow / change?
No, no, and it will change. I think the baby boomers that are still in know TTATT, but are too invested to change, family etc. From that, more and more children and children of children are not buying it, numbers declining fo sure. It’s a corporation and it will adjust to keep itself in operating. They have to with all the lawsuits headed their way.
How has your life been impacted by your JW past?
I learned from early on not to participate in, well anything. Whenever I did well in school on anything, my parents derailed it so I wouldn't be involved. That did a number on me. I really really struggle with that. Eeesh..
Are there things in your life you blame the WTS for?
I do…as in their high control of your life is ridiculous. I still bucked the system and had my own relationships and did things my way. BUT…I blame only myself for staying as long as I did. I didn’t feel I could do it alone, leave, marry outside the religion…so I didn’t. I know now I could have and would have been just fine. Plenty of my friends did…and I’m way behind. Duh.
JW upbringing - a protection or a curse?
Hmmm, interestingly, even as we bitch about being raised in, we admit to a rather protected/safe life, primarily good people not doing bad things to each other. I know there are exceptions, but I’m saying overall, it is the consensus.
How do you fill your time now it's not filled with meetings and field service?
I work a lot, so I have less stress being out of the “theocratic” schedule. I’ve been out so long it’s just life now…free to do what I want. It’s glorious. .
Do you still have an interest in JW beliefs and doctrines?
It’s becoming less and less. I sort of want to know the latest scoop. Since I know they are making it up as they go along, they will just make more sh*t up as the years go by. I do pop in here daily.
How much of your time is still spent on JW related matters?
Practically none. Just when the family comes in, or if I am talking to another ex regarding their current issues with same..
What do you think of the ex-JW community?
I like it. Trying to get them together is like herding cats…I think they have had enough JW. I know there are tremendous numbers in the shadows. I had a gathering a few years ago and people came from other sites I didn’t know. And by the crowd that showed up at Evans book signing, I could tell there is a vast apostate army out there. I wish they would try a fest sometime, it really is the best. Go to Tahoe, you won’t be disappointed. Tons of new faces every year, great stories.
Do you see yourself still being associated with the ex-JW community in 5 or 10 years time?
Yes, I think so. I find comfort in it..
Do you fear the future?
Not from god. Only from our own doing.
What advice would you give to anyone starting the journey of leaving the WTS?
Do your own research, your decisions are better grounded. Don’t feel you owe anybody an explanation, in or out. You need find out what you need to do in your own life then go do it. Life is to be lived, and its up to you to determine how.
What would you change in your life if you could go back and talk to yourself?
I would have gone to college. Three times I was given that opportunity but found it too hard to juggle with the theo schedule. Sigh..
Do you have any regrets about life since you left?
Can we read your life-story anywhere? (links to online or books)
Want to share your own story? Please use the Interview with an Apostate: Template and post it in the Personal Experiences & Reunions section with the title "Interview with an Apostate: [your name or alias]"
Nice interview dagney :) i enjoyed that very much.
Hi Dagney! I like this! Dagney & I (and my husband) met at the Apostafest in Tahoe. She and Aude Sapere were two of the most 'listeningenst' peoples there (besides Mr & Mrs Flipper, haha) and going there was GREAT! We met many people that we are still friends with and keep in contact with.
Also, people from our area, California, were there that we had not seen/spoken with for 40 years! All the dots started connecting... Very interesting. If you CAN, it is GREAT to hold a camping trip / ApostaFest in your area. Very worthwhile.
Thank you for sharing this. What a great way of sharing your JW experience. Great way of getting to know you too.
Nice answers, Dagney.
Very nice read.
Thanks for your story. It was insightful.
Enjoyed reading your replies Dagney.
thankyou for sharing.
keep these life stories coming guys.
Really great to read this. Had a very similar experience at my last meeting- I just knew that I didn't belong and that was that. Thanks for putting that all out in writing.
Thank you for your kind comments.
Thank you Simon for providing this outline, it makes it much easier to respond to a particular subject that could get lost in a narrative. I've been urged to tell my story somewhere, but I've never felt the need. But I do enjoy responding to specifics as it relates to this journey...there is a lot involved.
I reread my post and it occurs to me there is more time spent on JW issues than I responded. I have a friend newly out and the subject comes up almost every day. And TBH, a lifetime of indoctrination doesn't just evaporate from your brain. Maybe I hope someday it will be "almost none." LOL.
Waves to cha-ching! I remember our first meeting at the fest. I sat at a picnic table with your husband. I could tell there was a little "what am I doing here" feeling. But he relaxed as the time went on, especially when the naked dancing around the Baal statue started. JK. I have since spent a lovely weekend at cha-ching's house when I was up visiting new family. I hope to be up there again soon.
This interview was fun to do. It made me think and define my feelings. I love reading the interviews of others. Hope more give it a shot!